Snettisham site readied for work on new towers

Posted: Sunday, May 11, 2008

Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. contractors were on schedule this week as they cleared the Snettisham avalanche path for new power line and transmission towers to go in, according to the electric utility.

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William Boatman / Alaska Electric Light And Power Co.
William Boatman / Alaska Electric Light And Power Co.

The roughly $7 million project is still scheduled to be finished by mid-to-late July, according to Scott Willis, AEL&P's generation engineer.

"They had a good week," Willis said.

The first phase of the project is cleaning up the damage. An April 16 avalanche destroyed two towers, damaged five others, and disconnected the transmission line that supplied Juneau's hydroelectric power from the Snettisham lakes, 40 miles south of town.

Two crews of contractors from Anchorage-based City Electric Inc. worked on the mountainside last week, according to Eric Eriksen, vice president of transmission and generation.

They removed the high-voltage power transmission line from the towers and attached it to the ground. That way it can't drag structures down if there's another avalanche.

Helicopters took out downed tower parts. Friday, workers were shoveling out the last tower foundation still covered by snow. All the foundations are in good condition, Willis said.

Another crew, on flatter ground at Snettisham, assembled spare tower parts that until now have been stored there and at a Thane warehouse.

The new towers will be built on the foundations of the old ones. Helicopters will fly them in. The towers vary in weight from under 3,000 to about 12,000 pounds.

The last step in the project will be to restring the transmission line across the towers.

Two avalanche experts have been watching site safety. Avalanche areas have been off limits at times, but the workers have been able to get to all the parts of the site, Eriksen said.

An avalanche came down Tuesday while workers were on other parts of the mountain.

"It was a little scary for everybody, because it reverberates throughout the area. But everyone was out of the path of damage," Eriksen said.

He said the site has been bustling. The 12 linemen and seven other support workers have been sleeping at the site. Plumbers, electricians, surveyors and other workers have been in and out on barges, helicopters and planes.

"My job is to make sure it's all in motion, and it's definitely never a dull moment," he said.

• Contact reporter Kate Goldenat 523-2276 or e-mail

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